Gender differences in uptake, adherence and experiences: A longitudinal, mixed-methods study of a physical activity referral scheme in scotland, uk

Coral L. Hanson, Lis Neubeck, Richard G. Kyle, Norrie Brown, Robyn Gallagher, Robyn A. Clark, Sheona McHale, Susan Dawkes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Physical activity referral schemes (PARS) are implemented internationally to increase physical activity (PA), but evidence of effectiveness for population subgroups is equivocal. We examined gender differences for a Scottish PARS. This mixed-methods, concurrent longitudinal study had equal status quantitative and qualitative components. We conducted 348 telephone interviews across three time points (pre-scheme, 12 and 52 weeks). These included validated self-reported PA and exercise self-efficacy measures and open-ended questions about experiences. We recruited 136 participants, of whom 120 completed 12-week and 92 completed 52-week interviews. PARS uptake was 83.8% (114/136), and 12-week adherence for those who started was 43.0% (49/114). Living in less deprived areas was associated with better uptake (p = 0.021) and 12-week adherence (p = 0.020), and with male uptake (p = 0.024) in gender-stratified analysis. Female adherers significantly increased self-reported PA at 12 weeks (p = 0.005) but not 52 weeks. Males significantly increased exercise self-efficacy between baseline and 52 weeks (p = 0.009). Three qualitative themes and eight subthemes developed; gender perspectives, personal factors (health, social circumstances, transport and attendance benefits) and scheme factors (communication, social/staff support, individualisation and age appropriateness). Both genders valued the PARS. To increase uptake, adherence and PA, PARS should ensure timely, personalised communication, individualised, affordable PA and include mechanisms to re-engage those who disengage temporarily.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1700
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 10 Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Adherence
  • Exercise referral
  • Gender
  • Mixed methods
  • Physical activity
  • Public health
  • Uptake
  • PARS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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